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Oct 23rd

ENB Romeo and Juliet - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Alison Smith

22nd October 2015


image credti Annabel Moeller

The story of Romeo and Juliet is still as relevant today as it was in the 16th century when Shakespeare wrote the play, in the 1930’s when Prokofiev composed the music and in the 1970’s when Nureyev created the ballet. Verona, the ballet’s world, is a place of disease, conflict and violence, coexisting with humour, joy and love.

The contrast between these two aspects is highlighted from the outset when the death cart trundles across the stage and Romeo, young, handsome and lustful makes his first entrance. And throughout the ballet, the set design, lighting, music, costume and choreography all work together to show the dichotomy - andante and allegro, light and dark, blood red and palest pales.


image credit Laurent Liotardo

The dancers are technically and emotionally excellent. Erina Takahashi as Juliet is a fragile, innocent bride, vulnerable yet stubborn in the face of her conventional, dull parent’s demands. Romeo, Isaac Hernandez, love-struck, dreamy or bereft, epitomises a young lover. They dance together with abandon and passion. The joy and tragedy which enfolds is visible not only in their young bodies but on their faces. I was moved by their freshness and fervour. Cesar Corrales and James Forbat ,as Mercutio and Benvolio, add humour and camaraderie , while Tybalt, James Streeter, is strong and sexy. The sword fighting is breathtaking in its speed and dexterity.The corps de ballet gives the performance exuberance and drama.

This production is thrilling. It sparkles with wit, entrances with emotion and devastates with tragedy. I will see it again.


image cedit Patrick Baldwin

Romeo and Juliet plays MK Theatre until 24th October

Box office 0844 871 7652 

Online booking (bkg fee)

Oct 21st

Lest We Forget - English National Ballet - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter 20th October


Image copyright ash

This triple bill of stunning works, Tamara Rojo's first commission as Artistic Director of the ENB, reflect on the experiences of those involved in WW1. These are astounding pieces that deserve to reach a very wide audience. I was struck by the fact that on this tour they are only performed this one night at MK theatre and one night at The Palace Theatre, Manchester on 24th November. Commissioned as part of the 2014 100th anniversary to mark the start of war it is clear they are subject specific works. However, their pertinence and power is relevant in today's strife-ridden world and they deserve to shown much more extensively.

The works from British choreographers, Liam Scarlett, Russell Maliphant and Akram Khan, sit very well together. No Man's Land by Liam Scarlett, set to excerpts from Liszt's 'Harmonies poetiques et religieuses', is driven by the women who made bullets in the munitions factories, known as 'canaries' because the work turned their hands yellow. This is the only piece to use any structural staging, designed by Jon Bausor, part factory elevated up from part battlefield with a stairway opening up to jagged hole through which their men both real and ghostly return. All this, enveloped in smoky lighting by Paul Keoghan, makes a highly effective sense of time and place.

Seven couples are woven together in this complex piece; Scarlett interpreting Lizst's contrasting movements through pacing, shaping and a meld of ‘traditional’ and more experimental choreographic direction. The white of the women's arms wrapped around their men like the straps of human knapsacks is an abiding image. As the work unfolds a tangible sense of loss and sadness in the gap that is left when someone is gone weaves through the narrative. This feeling culminates in the pas de deux danced with technical brilliance by Rojo and Junor Souza.


Image copyright ash

Second breath by Russell Maliphant is utterly hypnotic. Set in semi darkness, a stage full of dancers sway, rise and fall. With no obvious narrative there is an emotional punch as these movements repeat and build as if swathes of men are being shot. Andy Cowton's composition of delicate piano, harsher strings and a veteran repeating 'strain of continual bombardment .. continual bombardment ... all the time' combine with the choreography and bring to the fore the unremitting state of destruction and desolation of the front.


Image copyright ash

Dust by Akram Khan was probably the strongest piece for me. It seemed to portray the utter trauma suffered by those who never recover from the effects of active combat. This is a profoundly haunting, even disturbing piece, such is its power. The images of James Streeter's tortured, tortuous writhing movements have stayed with me long after the final curtain call.

This is unusual, powerful, innovative choreography by Khan. The eerie music by Jocelyn Pook and cyclical playing of a snippet from British soldier Edward Dwyer singing 'We're here because we're here,' along with atmospheric lighting of Fabianna Piccioli creates a truly thought provoking work. I felt dreadfully sad yet the creativity of the choreographers, and the athlectisim and mastery of the dancers was inspiring at the same time. It is sometimes difficult to express in words the deep emotional impact that art can have. For me, this is one of those occasions.

Lest we forget played for one night at MK theatre. The run continues with Romeo and Juliet until Saturday 24th.

Box Office 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee)

Online Booking (bkg fee)









Jul 21st

And Then There Were None! by Agatha Christie

By Thia Cooper


It is testament to the popularity of the theatre and the loyalty of the audience they have built up over the years and to the varied programme they put on.

The excellent cast must also have caught the public’s eye!  Paul Nicholas (Sir Lawrence Wargrave), Colin Buchanan (William Blore), Susan Penhaligon (Emily Brent), Mark Curry (Doctor Armstrong), Ben Nealon (Philip Lombard – I thought a bit of romance might have come in there with Vera, but she shot him!) Verity Rushworth, ex-Emmerdale star (Vera Claythorne) and the very versatile Frazer Hines, also ex-Emmerdale (Rogers).

I should have remembered the plot and ‘who done it’, but luckily I didn’t and it was not until the murderer was revealed that it was a case of ‘of course he did it’!!

Based on a rhyme, ten people are invited to come to an island and offered plausible reasons why they should accept the invitation, even though they had no idea who the person was who invited them.

Everyone of them have a secret which involves the death of another person, but had escaped justice.

A gramophone recording after dinner on the first night brought their crimes out into the open. As there was no escape from the island and they gradually get killed off, one by one, the remaining culprits are, naturally suspicious of each other.

 And then there was only one left!  Vera!  But!!!  Hang on!  Guess who faked his death?  You’ll have to go to see the play to find out!  I can’t possibly ruin it for you!!!

Jul 15th

Jesus Christ Superstar - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed 14th July 2015


All images here photo copyright Pamela Raith

It seems hard to imagine in these days of ‘anything goes’ that in the early 1970s this was a highly unusual, indeed controversial, subject for a musical. Lack of initial interest from any of the major management companies at the time meant that the young Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to release a record first which led to a double album in 1971 featuring Ian Gillan of Deep Purple. There wasn’t a great deal of interest in the UK but the success of the album in the States led to a highly successful tour there which in turn led to a national tour of the theatre production and eventually the show opened on Broadway at the end of 1971 - to not very favourable reviews. Incredibly, here we are over 40 years later with this show truly demonstrating that it has stood the test of time with a near sell out national tour. This rock opera can only be described as ground-breaking and the piece that transformed musical theatre forever. 


The production for this tour is certainly a solid one with strong performances from the leads Glenn Carter (Jesus), Tim Rogers (Judas) and Rachel Adedeji (Mary Magdalene). Carter is supremely comfortable having played the role over the years in the West End, on Broadway and on film. Admittedly he took a little time to grow on me. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it’s possibly to do with the significance of the role and needing to familiarise oneself with how it is going to be played. Carter gives a marvellous performance, nuanced and subtle in his quieter moments but incredibly powerful and commanding throughout. From his performance of Gesthemane at the end of Act One the whole atmosphere becomes charged and Carter sustains the intensity of this throughout Act Two to the harrowing climax. He is an exceptional performer.

Rogers’ long and varied experience in musical theatre serves him well in the pivotal role of Judas; imposing and impressive with a belter of a voice for the most part. No one dimensional portrayal here but a gripping performance of a man struggling with his actions. Rogers really gets to grips with the torment of Judas' dilemma and then realisation of the consequences. Adedeji is spreading her wings in theatre after getting into the finals of the X-factor in 2009 and taking part in the tour of Thriller Live. She has a beautiful voice and gives a very elegant and understated performance, perhaps a little too understand in a couple of moments where she is almost inaudible; she needs a bit more volume on occasion. Other performances of note are Cavin Cornwall as a very sinister Caiaphas; his exceptionally deep voice resonates across the auditorium, Johnathan Tweedie as Pilate and Alistair Lee as a sneeringly nasty Annas. 


I’d like to give a mention to the young people taking part from Arts1 School of Performance in Milton Keynes. On Tuesday night this was the Blue Team with Madison Bishop, Ryley Cleeter, Rhian Damon, Kyla Garner, Lily Harvey, Scarlet Hennigan, Ella Jones-Seal, Emily Loveday, Joseph Maravala, Jasmine Sakyiama, Popi Taylor and Mia Weekes. Aged between 5 and 11 they sung and performed brilliantly and conducted themselves with great poise. They have taken part in this tour in Northampton and Aylesbury so, although the first taste of live performance in national theatre for most of them, no doubt in the future some of these budding stars will be centre stage. 

Paul Farnsworth’s imposing staging is fundamental to the overall strength of this production. The four huge, decorated pillars on either side of the stage and echoed across the backdrop give a claustrophobic feel and along with Nick Richings dramatic lighting design the staging feels suitably intense throughout.  Stairs and a walkway over the stage give the set another dimension and extend it up and across lending it an expansive, almost ‘cinematic’ feel whilst at the same time affording the action some fluidity. The huge metal ‘crown’ suspended centrally is an imposing and consistent image. 

Fabulous well-known music and lyrics: Superstar, Everything’s alright, I don’t know how to love him, Could we start again please and Gesthemane - all iconic pieces and some of Rice and Lloyd Weber’s best - are directed by Bob Broad and played by a small band. When going at full pelt during the louder more dynamic tunes and with a large number of singers present a grand sound is created but this is slightly less satisfactory in the quieter moments. MK Theatre’s effective acoustics aid the depth of sound here. 

A superb production, visually and musically rich, truly harrowing in Act Two and intensely moving.

Jesus Christ Superstar plays MK Theatre until Saturday 18th July.

Call 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee) or visit (bkg fee).



May 27th

The Sound of Music - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter


Reviewed by Louise Winter

26 May 2015 

The Sound of Music Tickets at Milton Keynes Theatre,

publicity poster from

Bill Kenwright's new production coincides with the 50th anniversary of the most successful musical in history. This touring production has not cut any corners and it feels extravagant and expensive. For the most part this is to do with the sets, cleverly designed by Gary Mcann. Staging this story calls for numerous interiors yet the inventiveness of MCann’s overall design is such that the scene-changes are almost seamless. The backdrop of the mountains, the plush interiors with the sweeping staircase central to the von Trapp residence, the effective stained glass and atmospheric lighting of the abbey, are all beautifully put together and make for superior staging.

All performances are excellent; Danielle Hope is wonderful as Maria, channelling Julie Andrews and carrying the role with boundless energy and enthusiasm. Her voice strong and pitch-perfect, she’s wonderful as the spirited young woman who blossoms into a loving and kind stepmother to the von Trapp children and she embodies spirit and personality. . 

The Sound of Music - Danielle Hope as Maria - credit Pamela Raith.jpg 

photo credit Pamela Raith 

Steven Houghton as Captain von Trapp is rather understated, perhaps as the role demands, and he is possibly not a perfect match for this Maria; maybe because their voices are not particularly well paired. Houghton’s is very mellow and soft compared to the strong clarity and power of Hope’s. There is though some tangible stage chemistry and warmth between them. 

The children are all superb; nothing too saccharine, cute or over pretentious about the younger ones, but all charming and sweet in the nicest way. The initial difficulties Maria faces in the film are missing here and the children fall for her immediately so the comedic value of their first interactions are absent.


The Sound of Music - credit Pamela Raith.jpg

photo credit Pamela Raith 

Jan Hartley as the Mother Abbess has one of the most powerful voices in theatre. Her Climb Ev’ry Mountain at the end of the first half and again to close was the absolute showstopper and almost blew the roof off the theatre! Along with Nuns, Zoe Anne Bown, Jessica Sherman and Grace Gardner, the music in the Abbey and their rendition of Maria were truly heavenly.  

Musical Director David Steadman has a 10 piece band which sounds like a full blown orchestra; a big rich sound which is so important to replicate these loved tunes here. They do justice to some of the most memorable music and songs of all time by Rogers and Hammerstein – My Favourite things,  Edelweiss, So long, Farewell, Do-Re-Mi. Milton Keynes' superb acoustics work wonders for this particular production.

The audience of all ages were enthralled and enchanted by this show and I cannot recommend it highly enough. A magnificent show and one that is a perfect half term treat for all the family. Heart-warming and life-affirming, this enchanting production is well worth the ticket fee.


Tickets:                    £19.50 - £37 when booking in person at Milton Keynes Theatre Box Office -  for full details when booking on-line or over the phone visit 

Box Office:                0844 871 7652 (bkg fee) 

Online Booking:  (bkg fee)



May 6th

The King's Speech - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter


The King;s Speech poster

Reviewed at Milton Keynes Theatre 5 May 2015

by Louise Winter 


This production is absolutely superb in all aspects. 

Whilst many may decide to buy tickets for this on the strength of enjoying the 2010 film, this play has a different emphasis and is better for it. The film is perhaps primarily concerned with the relationship of the two main characters and glosses over some of the events of the time in order to sanitise the story to appeal to a more general audience (and the various awards bodies; it won 117 awards after all so clearly was a triumph). 

However, my feeling is that David Seidler’s stage play is altogether more rounded, mature and dramatic. The characters are not over-romanticised, they portray despicable human behaviour with all its  flaws and manage to effectively demonstrate the distinct separation between the Royals and the rest of society.

Honestly, none of them are particularly attractive; King George (Bertie) is self-doubting yet supremely arrogant, partly as a result of the bullying by his father and the really rather unpleasant Edward VIII and self-serving Wallace-Simpson.  Australian Lionel Logue could be described as a social climber, failed actor, as well as economic with the truth, having no qualifications in his profession as a speech therapist. Queen Elizabeth is snooty and dismissive of anyone not of her status. They are not a pleasant bunch. The only character who is eminently likeable is Myrtle Logue, warmly and generously played by Katy Stephens. 

In contrast to the film, while clearly the relationship between Logue and Bertie is fundamental, are the much wider implications of the affair of Edward VIII and Wallace-Simpson, the outbreak of WWII, and comment on the difficulties of managing relationships between the classes of the time. The additional political content missing from the film is mostly delivered by the characters of Churchill, Stanley Baldwin and the Archbishop of Canterbury here in the play, sharply played by Nicholas Blane, Martin Turner and William Hoyland. As Seidler states in interview ‘they’re like the old guys in the Muppets (…) naughty, mischievous and very funny’. Indeed. 

Jason Donovan (Lionel Logue) and Raymond Coulthard (Bertie) are outstanding. Both give excellent performances and have a tangible stage chemistry. This gives the interplay between them a certain gravity in the serious episodes and a real warmth to the many moments of humour and indeed hilarity. Donovan’s impeccable performance demonstrates that he is a character actor of great ability and sensitivity and heralds the start of another period in his career. 

It is not only Donovan’s who stands out; Raymond Coulthard as Bertie is superb; detached and, although one dimensional at the start, the gradual rounding out of the future King of England by Coulthard is brilliant. His performance is controlled and impressive. 

Tom Piper has created an imaginative and apparently intriguingly simple set where a few props transform the stage into the various setttings.

A very moving production. Exemplary on all fronts. Great stuff.

booking until Saturday 9th at MK theatre and then on tour

Booking fees apply


Dec 14th

Pantomime-Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Theatre Royal Nottingham

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is one of the most endering pantomimes. This current production in Nottingham ticks all the boxes: it is colourful, funny, entertaining and appeals to the mums and dads as well as the younger members of the audience.

Snow White, Nottingham Theatre Royal

Starring Lesley Joseph as the Wicked Queen and former Eastenders actor Sam Attwater it was pantomime dame Andrew Ryan as the Nurse who held the show together: his jokes were comical and his timing perfect. He must have gone through 20 costume changes during the evening.

Ben Nickless at Muddles appeared to base his role on a cross between Joe Pasquale and Billy Pearce, his character was warm and funny.

Emilie Du Lesley as Snow White appeared charming and innocent, she has a great singing voice too. The Seven Dwarfs added the finishing touch to the show.

Of course a panto is only as good as the songs which have to be memorable and uplifting. Pharrell Williams big hit of the year, Happy and the Boo Radleys, Wake Up Boo were very apt songs to perform.

The special effects were superb: a flying dragon flew from the stage over into the stalls, it was so close and believable you felt you could almost touch it.

The 12 Days of Christmas is performed at the end of the night with the four main characters, a word of warning, do not sit near the front or you might get some toilet rolls thrown at you! Lesley Joseph makes it look like it was an accident as she hurls them into the audience but of course, it is all part of the panto.

Judging by the smiling faces leaving the theatre it appeared that Nottingham had been given an early christmas present. 

Runs until Sunday 11 January 2015.

Tickets from £22.00 available from:
Dec 10th

Peter Pan Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Peter Pan 
Milton Keynes Theatre
Reviewed by Louise Winter 9th December 2014

Peter Pan at MKT 2014 009 Press.jpg

Milton Keynes has a high energy, fast paced panto this year - mainly due to the frantic speed of Bradley Walsh et al's delivery, the high number of set dance pieces throughout and the marvellous Flawless. Yes, Walsh is back after a 7 year break from MK and it appears he has a very strong fanbase here. 

Peter Pan at MKT 2014 025 Press.jpg 
Splendid sets including a truly fantastic forest, and glittering pirate ship, and top class costumes make for a visual delight.
The huge cast work extremely hard to entertain but patricular mentions must go to David Bedella who is a brilliant Hook - suave, cool and not too scary -  and Francesca Mills as Tinker Bell as the suitably mischeivous fairy with a real air of naughtiness about her (in a way suitable for children I mean) zooming about in the air or on skates. She's dynamic and quite fabulous.

Peter Pan at MKT 2014 015 Press.jpg

Bradley Walsh is as one would expect, and if you've seen him in panto here before you won't be disappointed. He had people in stitches with his zany antics and silly asides to the audience. He has the act of pretending to forget what he's supposed to be doing down to an art.

Peter Pan at MKT 2014 042 Press.jpg

Flawless are outstanding and have changed the whole feel of this panto ... their incredible routines are crowd pleasers for all members of the audience particularly when they get their own section in the second half; one of the highlights of the show.

Peter Pan at MKT 2014 047 Press.jpg

One tiny thing - perhaps there was not enough participation for the very youngest members of the audience as 2 1/2 hours is a long time for small children to stay engaged. Most of them (or rather their adults) had been drawn into buying pirate hats and flashing swords or wands and it would have been great if there had been moments when they could have waved these or 'taken part' in the action on stage (from their seats) via some slighty more directed and organised audience participation. There were limited opportunities for booing, 'it's behind you' and 'oh no it isn't'. A bit more of this would mean all are catered for and the show would be perfect. At the moment the pitch is for a slightly older, more savvy group; the 10 year olds behind had a fabulous time. 

An now, one last thing, Bradley Walsh was incredibly generous about coming back to MK. He said both at the beginning and end how great it was to be back and how good the audience was ... they were brilliant!! -  fully participating and up on their feet without a moment of hesitation. The references to the area (Bletchley and Newport Pagnell) were gentle digs and amusing rather than downright rude and nasty as they have been by some nameless leads
in the past (although that is probably the fault of the scriptwriter). Perhaps if I were feeling cynical I would know Walsh would say nice things but the fact that he did actually engage with the audience out of character in the nicest possible way won him at least one more fan! He comes across as genuine and by all accounts he is a lovely guy. His attitude to MK and its people is perfect. 

A great evening of entertainment for the festive season. Go and enjoy!

Peter Pan at MK Theatre until 11th January

A great evening of entertainment for the festive season. Go and enjoy!
Peter Pan at MK Theatre until 11th January
0844 871 7615 booking fee applies
All images Copywright MK Theatre 2014

Oct 30th

Thrilling Dirty Dancing!

By Thia Cooper

It’s not often I don’t look forward to seeing any production at Milton Keynes Theatre!  However,  I have seen the stage version of Dirty Dancing and did not enjoy it.  I felt it didn’t convert to the stage very well and the performance was lack lustre.

Wow!  What a change!  All the things I missed are back in this performance.

The cast oozed enthusiasm!  Most of them played more than one part, showing their versatility and expertise.

Baby, played by Roseanna Frascona was superb and there was an obvious easy relationship between her and Johnny, played by Gareth Bailey.  What a fabulous dancer he is!  They both have great stage presence.

Claire Rogers, who plays Penny, is also an awesome, beautiful dancer.  It is impossible to take your eyes off her, even when others are on stage with her. 

The costume, set, video, staging and  choreography designers should also be congratulated. Completely beautifully coordinated.  The scenes with Baby and Johnny rehearsing in the corn field and water were very effective and I would be interested to know how they got the effect.

Lisa, played by Jessie-Lou Yates brought great humour to the evening.  Her portrayal of Baby’s rather goofy sister was excellent.  Her out of tune singing brought guffaws of laughter from us.

I imagine most people would recognise the iconic  ‘(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life’ scene, where Baby jumps into the arms of Johnny.  This was, this time, beautiful.  She looked as though she was gliding into his arms.  The anticipation of the audience was ecstatic, and then when the jump was executed the cheers were very loud!!!

I am still not convinced that if you need to have seen the film to be able to follow the story, but this performance left people on a high and a standing ovation was well deserved.

Another great success for Milton Keynes Theatre!!

Tuesday 21 October – (Friday 5pm & 8.30pm) Saturday 8 November

Tickets: £10 - £75

Box Office: 0844 871 7652

Oct 9th

Nostalgic Dreamboats and Miniskirts!

By Thia Cooper


I had had a horrible day!  The sort of day that needs something really special to put things back into perspective!  Thanks goodness then for my theatre night to see Dreamboats and Miniskirts at Milton Keynes Theatre!!

This delightful,  light hearted  60’s musical, is the sequel to Dreamboats and Petticoats and for the audience (of a certain age!) it is pure nostalgia.  The world changed so much during that decade!  And looking round the audience, the majority did seem ‘of a certain age’, including me!

Having failed to hit the hot spot with Dreamboats and Petticoats, Bobby and Laura need something to inspire them to try again to join the ranks of groups such as The Beatles.  We follow the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of that quest.

It was pointed out to the audience, that everything was sung and played live!  Challenging?  This  cast did it with ease.   They all seemed to be multi-talented!  The band doubled as backing singers and actors, the two girl saxophonists, played flute and clarinet too, acted,  and sang.  In fact all the cast did everything to a high standard!

The fashions brought back great memories too, although I think they could have been emphasised more in the first half as the second half was obviously based on the ‘Mary Quant’ look and were more authentic!

It seems unfair to mention individual performances, as they were all outstanding!  However, some of the renditions of the songs stand out.  Every song that included Tony (Alan Howell) benefitted from his smooth baritone voice.  ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ sent shivers down my spine!  The simple guitar accompaniment (played by him) was a lovely contrast from the loud rocky numbers it followed.  The band was too loud at times, but it didn’t spoil anything.

Norman (Ross William Wild, a dynamic performer) and Bobby’s (Alex Beaumont) rendition of ‘Oh Pretty Woman’ was also stunning as was Laura (Elizabeth Carter), Sue (Louise Olley) and Donna’s (Anna Campkin) version of ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’.  Beautiful harmonies!

The production featured all our favourite 60s rock ‘n’ roll hits which left us singing all the way home!!

If you get the chance, see it, especially if you need cheering up as I did!


Monday 6 to Saturday 11 October


Weds & Sats Mats 2.30pm

Tickets £10 to £35

0844 871 7652